AJPGLP ’10: Review of how probiotics function, with focus on intestinal barrier function


Ohland CL, MacNaughton WK. Probiotic bacteria and intestinal epithelial barrier function. Am J Physiol Gastrointest Liver Physiol, 2010; 298: G807-G819.

The intestinal tract is a diverse microenvironment where more than 500 species of bacteria thrive. A single layer of epithelium is all that separates these commensal microorganisms and pathogens from the underlying immune cells, and thus epithelial barrier function is a key component in the arsenal of defense mechanisms required to prevent infection and inflammation.

The epithelial barrier consists of a dense mucous layer containing secretory IgA and antimicrobial peptides as well as dynamic junctional complexes that regulate permeability between cells. Probiotics are live microorganisms that confer benefit to the host and that have been suggested to ameliorate or prevent diseases including antibiotic-associated diarrhea, irritable bowel syndrome, and inflammatory bowel disease.

Probiotics likely function through enhancement of barrier function, immunomodulation, and competitive adherence to the mucus and epithelium. This review summarizes the evidence about effects of the many available probiotics with an emphasis on intestinal barrier function and the mechanisms affected by probiotics.